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Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law


Past Events

November 11, 2021

Ackerman bookCERL Book Talk - Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump
by Spencer Ackerman
Moderated by Prof. Claire Finkelstein, CERL Faculty Director
Co-sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the Middle East Center 

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June 10, 2021

Beyond the Voting Provisions of S.1: What Does the For the People Act
Do for National Security and Government Ethics?

A virtual presentation sponsored by Open Source Election Systems

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The For the People Act is the broadest reform of federal elections since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, with new provisions that address ballot box access, campaign finance, foreign interference, and government ethics. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill (H.R. 1) on March 4, 2021; it is now to be voted on by the U.S. Senate during the week of June 21, 2021.

This nonpartisan panel of public policy experts and elected officials will discuss the merits of the act and evaluate its novel provisions. Discussion will focus on the S. 1 provisions that deal with national security, transparency, and government ethics, provisions that have been largely overlooked surrounding the bill’s more controversial voting reforms.

Panelists will cover these proposed measures:

  • More mandated disclosure of financial links by campaigns
  • Rules that prevent coordination between Super PACs and campaigns
  • Revamped voting recordkeeping, audits, and recounts
  • Stronger prevention of U.S. citizens from becoming tools of foreign governments, including via the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA)
  • Reformed disclosure requirements by certain executive branch employees
  • Expanded conflict-of-interest laws, more divestment disclosure, and presidents’ disclosure of their tax returns


Noah Bookbinder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Gov. Arne Carlson, former Governor of Minnesota, 1991-1999

Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-MN), representative from Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District

Amb. Norman Eisen, Brookings Senior Fellow; former special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee and U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic

Prof. Richard Painter, S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law School; former chief White House ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), representative from Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District


Prof. Claire Finkelstein, Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; Academic Director, Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law

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May 11, 2021

When Society’s Safety is at Stake: A Post-Trump Review of the Goldwater Rule
a virtual CERL forum

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This CERL Forum was the culmination of CERL’s blog exploration of the Goldwater Rule and the rule’s controversial place in the psychiatry profession and American society

The campaign and presidency of Donald J. Trump triggered vigorous debate among psychiatrists about the Goldwater Rule. Set by the American Psychiatric Association, the rule prohibits statements by psychiatrists about a public figure’s mental health without a proper examination and patient authorization. The APA views such statements to be unethical and irresponsible. Many psychiatrists believe the rule erodes their duty to protect public health and puts society’s safety at risk. Some also believe it marginalizes them from participating in the political process.

Will psychiatrists and other mental health professionals ever be able to publicly and ethically comment or warn the public about the mental state of the next powerful leader whom they believe puts the people in harm’s way?

The expert panelists will revisit the Goldwater Rule and answer these questions and more:

  • What is the nature of psychiatrists’ public health obligation to alert citizens that a leader may pose a danger?
  • Under what circumstances may members of the American Psychiatrist Association publicly comment on the mental health of a public figure and remain in good standing? Are they permitted to render opinions to legal authorities?
  • Is the Goldwater Rule a hard and fast prohibition or a guiding principle? Should it be modified? Or even eliminated?
  • Will American psychiatry be ready to play a role in the decision to remove a president under the 25th Amendment when the alleged incapacity involves mental impairment?


Jonathan D. Moreno, Ph.D, David & Lyn Silfen University Professor and Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania


Norman Eisen, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings

Bandy X. Lee, M.D., M.DIV. forensic psychiatrist and President of the World Mental Health Coalition

Richard Painter, S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota Law, and CERL Advisory Council member

Claire Pouncey, M.D., Ph.D., psychiatrist

Paul Summergrad, M.D., FRCPsych (Hon), Dr. Frances S. Arkin Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Tufts Medical Center

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April 21, 2021

Rethinking U.S. and International Nuclear Policies: Are Current Practices Including Threats of Nuclear Strikes Legal and Morally Justified?
a virtual public keynote 
                 co-sponsored by Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC)

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This keynote event brings together senior level experts to discuss nuclear weaponry and policy concerns in light of sovereign leaders’ rhetoric, the efficacy of current Law of War principles to constrain such communications, and the need to rethink the rule of law’s role for establishing enforceable boundaries for states and non-state actors who issue nuclear weaponry-related threats.

Those committed to preventing, mitigating, and resolving the most violent of conflicts have traditionally leveraged international cooperation based on adherence to the rule of law. But recent examples in conflict escalation (both rhetorical and actual) have left many to wonder what role international law plays in regulating the use of nuclear weapons. Adding to this tension is the difficulty of determining the legality of nuclear threats. Senior-level nuclear policy experts will answer the questions:

  • Do the traditional methods of analyzing a State’s compliance with Articles 2(4) and 51 of the U.N. Charter apply in the context of threat-making when those threats explicitly or implicitly implicate the use of nuclear weapons?
  • Does the inherent right of self-defense include the right to use nuclear weapons?
  • Is nuclear war so different from other forms of warfare that traditional legal doctrines no longer apply, or must they be applied in substantially different ways?

    Additionally, the emergence of totalitarian regimes and non-State actors pursuing nuclear weapons complicates the strategy. Panelists will discuss their views on these questions and more: 
  • What does the expanding set of complications portend for nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament?
  • Given the current state of rhetoric by leaders of nuclear sovereigns, are such goals even within the realm of possibility?
  • What roles will strategic communications and the rule of law play in de-escalating nuclear tensions?


Claire Finkelstein, Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, and founding director of CERL


BGen R. Patrick Huston, U.S. Army, Assistant Judge Advocate General for Military Law and Operations

Congressman Adam Smith  (D-WA 9th District) 

Dr. John R. Harvey, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs

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This event was the public keynote of Left of Launch: Communication and Threat Escalation in a Nuclear Age, a closed-session conference on April 21-23 sponsored by CERL and Penn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

April 8, 2021

CERL Book Talk - How to Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict
by Nina Jankowicz
Moderated by Alexandra A.K. Meise, CERL Senior Fellow
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March 23, 2021

Roundtable on “War and Peace in Outer Space”
Book launch of War and Peace in Outer Space: Law, Policy, Ethics (Oxford University Press (2021) edited by CERL Fellow Cassandra Steer and Matthew Hersch




Air Commodore Philip Gordon, Director General Air Defence and Space, Royal Australian Air Force
Matthew Hersch, Harvard University
Victoria Samson, Secure World Foundation
Cassandra Steer, ANU College of Law and Senior Nonresident Fellow at the Center for Ethics and the Rule of the Law

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March 3, 2021

Book Talk - War and Moral Injury — A Reader
Edited by Robert Emmet Meagher and Douglas A. Pryer
Hosted by Aberystwyth University and sponsored by CERL
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February 18, 2021

CERL Book Talk - Defending Frenemies: Alliances, Politics, and Nuclear Nonproliferation in US Foreign Policy
by Jeffrey W. Taliaferro
Moderated by Jules Zacher, Esq., CERL Executive Board Member
Watch the playback 

January 14, 2021

CERL Book Talk - American Nero: The History of the Destruction of the Rule of Law, and Why Trump Is the Worst Offender
by Richard Painter
Moderated by Prof. Claire Finkelstein, CERL Faculty Director
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November 19, 2020

CERL Book Talk - Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All
by Suzanne Nossel
a virtual presentation
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October 29, 2020

CERL Book Talk - Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State
by Barton Gellman
a virtual presentation
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October 1-3, 2020

Circling the Arctic: Security and the Rule of Law in a Changing North
A conference with four public virtual sessions 
 presented by CERL, Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), and the Polar Institute at the Wilson Center

Read the conference report

SESSION 1: Engaging Arctic Nations: A Conversation with Security Leaders on Strengthening Arctic Security Cooperation
12:15 pm – 1:30 pm ET

Are nations paying enough attention to climate change and Arctic security? Do military and other security interests of the Arctic nations align? Are current domestic and international political, security, economic, and diplomatic structures sufficient to address looming cross-border Arctic threats and opportunities? A panel of security experts will discuss how security apparatuses and Arctic governments can better engage with each other to advance security policy in the face of climate change’s existential threat.

Panel discussion with:
GEN (Ret) Joseph L. Votel, U.S. Army, former Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM); President & CEO, Business Executives for National Security (BENS)
Mr. Bjorn Fagerberg, Head of Political Section, Embassy of Sweden
Ms. Sherri Goodman, Public Policy Fellow, Senior Fellow, Environmental Change and Security Program, Wilson Center; Secretary-General of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS)

Moderated by:
Ms. Alexandra A.K. Meise, Senior Research Fellow, Center for Ethics and the Rule Law, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

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SESSION 2: Communicating the Climate Change Security Threat: Are We Using Effective Language?
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm ET

Despite 97% of climate scientists agreeing that the last century’s global warming trends are likely due to manmade activity, 38% of Americans do not acknowledge that mankind’s actions contribute to climate change. Is there a messaging problem? Does “climate change” need a “rebrand” to be taken seriously by more people, especially decision-makers? What could/should national security, scientific, and political leaders be doing to convey the severity of climate threats to the general public and decision-makers?

Featured speaker:
Prof. Asheley Landrum, Assistant Professor, College of Media & Communication, Texas Tech University

Featured speakers via pre-recordings:
Prof. Dietram Scheufele, Taylor-Bascom Chair in Science Communication and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Morgridge Institute for Research
Prof. Matthew Nisbet, Professor of Communication Studies and Affiliate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University
Prof. Bruce Hardy, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication and Social Influence, Klein College of Media and Communication, Temple University

Moderated by:
Prof. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication, University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication; Walter and Leonore Annenberg Director, Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), University of Pennsylvania

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Watch Prof. Nisbet’s full presentation


SESSION 3: Morning Coffee Talk with Senator Angus King on U.S. Arctic Strategy
9:30 am – 10:30 am ET

U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME), Co-Chair, Arctic Caucus
Prof. Claire Finkelstein, Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, Faculty Director, Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

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SESSION 4: The Rule of Law? Maximizing Hard and Soft Law Arctic Governance
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm ET

This session will consider the current and future state of hard and soft Arctic governance mechanisms – including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), treaties, and the Arctic Council – and their ability to advance strategic physical and economic security objectives in the region.

Panel discussion with:
Hon. Inuuteq Holm Olsen, Minister Plenipotentiary and Head of Representation for Greenland in the United States
Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough, International Chair, Inuit Circumpolar Council; fmr. Expert Member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Dr. Lassi Heininen, Professor of Arctic Politics, University of Lapland; Chairman, Steering Committee, Northern Research Forum

Moderated by:
Amb. David Balton Senior Fellow, Polar Institute, Wilson Center; fmr. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Fisheries

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September 24, 2020

How To Save A Constitutional Democracy

CERL Book Talk - How to Save a Constitutional Democracy
by Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq
a virtual presentation
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September 17, 2020

Protecting Democracy: Foreign Interference, Voter Confidence and Defensive Strategies in the 2020 Elections and Beyond
A virtual symposium with public sessions presented by CERL, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC)

9:30 am – 10:45 am Public Session 1: Patterns of Foreign Election Interference Since 2016

This panel will examine the current state of foreign interference in the 2020 election and in other democracies worldwide. How have the steps taken by governments and the private sector worked to thwart foreign interference in the current election cycle? How have the states used the federal funding allocated in 2018 and 2020 to secure their election processes? Have the efforts of the private sector been adequate to prevent the spread of disinformation? How confident is the intelligence community that the 2020 election will be free from foreign interference?


Claire Finkelstein, Algernon Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy and Faculty Director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School


James Clapper, Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence; CERL Executive Board Member

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication; Walter and Leonore Director of the university’s Annenberg Public Policy Center; Program Director of the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands.

11:30 am – 12:30 pm Public Session 2: Voter Attitudes and Foreign Influence: Protecting the Vote

Seventy-one percent of people surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2018 said that foreign influence is a major problem. But the general public’s concern alone does not prevent or combat influence. As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, our adversaries are spreading disinformation and propaganda about the United States. Both foreign influence and the pandemic itself present new threats to ensuring the integrity in the conduct and result of the fall election.

As state and local election officials scramble to deal with the multitude of issues that the pandemic poses for the 2020 elections, have the federal government and the private sector taken steps to combat the spread of disinformation about the pandemic? Has the messaging of foreign actors related to the pandemic changed to influence the election? Is there anything different about the messaging surrounding the pandemic from earlier disinformation campaigns meant to influence elections? How should states, the private sector and civil society address protecting the integrity of our election processes?


Carrie Cordero, Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow, CNAS


Scott Bates, Deputy Secretary of State, Connecticut

Vanita Gupta, President and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Bill Kristol, Director, Defending Democracy Together; Editor-at-Large, The Bulwark

Laura Rosenberger, Director, Alliance for Securing Democracy, German Marshall Fund

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Read the conference report

February 27, 2020

CERL Book Talk - Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence
by James R. Clapper

5:00 PM-6:30 PM

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, 3501 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

Reception to follow


In this frank account, James R. Clapper, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. and former Director of National Intelligence under President Obama, provides a look inside the U.S. intelligence community as he traces his career through his service during 10 presidencies and more recently through the wars in Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan; the Benghazi attack; Edwin Snowden’s leak of classified information; and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

James R. Clapper served as the U.S. Director of National Intelligence from 2010 until 2017. Mr. Clapper began his military career as an enlisted Marine Corps reservist in 1961 and rose to become a three-star Air Force lieutenant general. Nominated by President Bush and Senate confirmed in 2007, he served as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence until 2010 when he became, via President Obama’s nomination and the Senate’s unanimous vote, Director of National Intelligence. Mr. Clapper’s last day as DNI was January 20, 2017.

This event is open to the public and free.

This program has been approved for 1.5 ethics CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $60.00 ($30.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check made payable to The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

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February 11, 2020

National Security is a Feminist Issue: Twenty Years of Women, Peace and Security Initiatives

Decades of data show that when women do better, countries do better. Women offer
distinctive contributions to making and keeping peace. But after 20 years of domestic and international Women, Peace and Security (“WPS”) initiatives, has women’s participation in conflict prevention and peace stabilization efforts increased? Are countries’ national security measures and outcomes better?

Participants in this day-long public symposium will introduce attendees to WPS initiatives springing from the UN’s Resolution 1325 passed in 2000 and will discuss the results of two decades worth of efforts around the globe to address the under-valued and under-utilized contributions of women as active agents in peace and security. Panel one will focus on the successes and shortcomings of WPS initiatives in the United States; panel two will examine the same internationally.

The symposium will conclude with a keynote fireside chat withMichèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense and a leader in the U.S. national security space who has worked to promote gender equality and women’s participation in military and civilian national security positions at home and abroad. See below for more details.

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, 3501 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

Panel 1 - Status-Check on WPS Initiatives in the United States

Amb. Melanne Verveer, first U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues and Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security

Jenna Ben-Yehuda, CEO and President of Truman National Security Project and founder of the Women’s Foreign Policy Network

Joan Johnson Freese, Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College

Angelic Young, Director of Training for Law Enforcement at the Anti-Defamation League

Lyric Thompson, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women

Moderator: Alexandra A.K. Meise, CERL, Senior Fellow, Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Panel 2 - International Efforts to Promote WPS Initiatives – What Now?

Irene Khan, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization

Farahnaz Ispahani, Global Fellow at Wilson Center and Adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan

Funmi Balogun, UN Women Country Representative for South Sudan

Moderator: Rangita de Silva de Alwis, Associate Dean for International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

CLE credit

This program (conference and keynote) has been approved for 3.5 ethics CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $160.00 ($80.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check made payable to The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

Watch the playbacks

Introduction by Alexandra A.K. Meise 
Panel 1: Status-Check on WPS Initiatives in the United States
Panel 2: WPS Coming of Age: Global Efforts to Advance the Agenda
Keynote: Women Driving Change in National Security presented by Michele Flournoy, Former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (2009-2012)

February 11, 2020

The Paul G. Haaga, Jr. Lecture in Law, Government, and Public Policy
Women Driving Change through Red Tape: Policymaking in the World’s Biggest Bureaucracy

a “fireside chat” with Michèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
reception to follow

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, 3501 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

This event is open to the public and free

As Under Secretary from 2009-2012, Ms. Flournoy was the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and National Security Council deliberations. Additionally, the United States was debating the creation of an action plan required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, a ground-breaking resolution on Women, Peace and Security (“WPS”) that was adopted to address the under-valued and under-utilized contributions of women as active agents in peace and security.

In this “fireside chat” with Professor Claire Finkelstein, CERL’s founder and faculty director, Ms. Flournoy will talk about her experience devising front-line U.S. defense policy, her leadership in security strategy, and her role in developing new U.S. policy in line with domestic and international women, peace, and security efforts.

This event has been made possible through the generosity of Paul G. Haaga, Jr. (Penn Law class ’74; The Wharton School ’74) and Heather Haaga. Mr. Haaga chairs the executive board of Penn Law’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL).

CLE credit

This program has been approved for 1.5 ethics CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $60.00 ($30.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check made payable to The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

Watch the playback 

January 16, 2020
Screening of “The Report” with post-film panel discussion

This Amazon Studios thriller starring Adam Driver and Annette Bening chronicles the Senate Intelligence Committee’s real-life investigation of the CIA’s use of torture post 9/11 and Senate staffer Daniel Jones’s seven-year investigative journey and 6,700-page report




Movie Screening: 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Panel Discussion: 5:45 pm – 7:15 pm
reception to follow

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, 3501 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

This event is open to the public and free


Katherine Eban, an investigative journalist, is a Fortune magazine contributor and Andrew Carnegie fellow. Her articles on pharmaceutical counterfeiting, gun trafficking, and coercive interrogations by the CIA, have won international attention and numerous awards.

Alka Pradhan is Human Rights Counsel at the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions, representing one of the 9/11 accused. She was previously Counter-Terrorism Counsel at Reprieve US, where she represented a number of Guantanamo Bay detainees in litigation involving habeas corpus claims and conditions of detention.

BGen. (ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D., is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1998. He is actively engaged with Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights First, the only retired military general and physician to speak out publicly against torture and the involvement of health care practitioners in torture.

Alberto J. Mora is the American Bar Association’s Associate Executive Director for Global Programs. In this capacity, he directs the ABA’s global Rule of Law Initiative, oversees the ABA’s Human Rights Center, and coordinates the ABA’s relationship with the United Nations and specialized agencies and functions.

Mark Fallon is a counter-terrorism expert and consultant. He was the director of the Criminal Investigative Task Force at the U.S. Military’s Guantanamo detention camp for two and half years. His book, “Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture” was released in 2017.

Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John G. Baker is the chief defense counsel of the Military Commissions Defense Organization (MCDO). The mission of the MCDO is to provide ethical, zealous, independent, client-based defense services under the Military Commissions Act in order to defend the rule of law and maintain public confidence in the nation’s commitment to equal justice under the law. His views do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. government, or any U.S. agency or instrumentality.

Professor Claire Finkelstein is the moderator of the discussion. She is the Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law.

Co-sponsored by Amazon and the Middle East Center of the University of Pennsylvania

This program has been approved for 3.5 ethics CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $140.00 ($70.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check made payable to The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

Watch the playback


December 6-7, 2019

Hybrid Threats in the Grey Zone: Mapping the Terrain 

 This two-day closed session workshop will address the complex legal, ethical and policy issues involved in grey   zone conflicts. The modern international arena is characterized by a number of “hybrid threats” posed by   activities in what is known as the “grey zone.”  United States Special Operations Command defines this zone   as “a conceptual space between peace and war, occurring when actors purposefully use single or multiple   elements of power to achieve political-security objectives with activities that are typically ambiguous or cloud attribution and exceed the threshold of ordinary competition, yet intentionally fall below the level of large-scale direct military conflict.”

This workshop will bring together thinkers from various disciplines to map the terrain characterized by hybrid threats in the grey zone. This will involve discussion of the specific types of threats and the issues that they raise, how these threats may be connected to one another, the responses that may be effective in response to them, and the potential for legal and ethical principles to provide greater clarity and structure about what is and is not acceptable behavior.   


December 5, 2019

CERL Book Talk — The Lands in Between: Russia vs the West and the New Politics of Hybrid War
by Mitchell Orenstein

 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
 reception to follow
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, 3501 Sansom Street, Fitts Auditorium

CLE CREDITS:  This program has been approved for 1.5 ethics CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $60.00 ($30.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check payable to The Trustees of the University  of Pennsylvania. 

Watch the webcast


November 21-22, 2019

 Autocrats’ Tech Assault and Democracy’s Response  

 Democracies are facing increasing threats by autocratic regimes around the world and by autocratic   notions and leanings within their own borders. Many experts believe the rise is intertwined with advances   in technology. This conference will focus on how new technologies are strengthening autocracies around   the world and what the United States and other democracies can do to thwart their infiltration and     effectiveness, primarily through civic engagement and education, media response, and private sector technology collaboration.

co-sponsored by Perry World House and The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy 

November 21, 2019

 How Technology Advances Autocracy and What Democracies Can Do About It

 A keynote panel presentation open to the public
 co-sponsored by Perry World House and The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy 

 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
 reception to follow
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, 3501 Sansom Street, Fitts Auditorium


David Cole, ACLU Legal Director,  Hon. George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy, Georgetown Law

Richard Fontaine, Executive Director, Center for a New American Security 

Marwan M. Kraidy, Professor of Communication and the Anthony Shadid Chair in Global Media, Politics and Culture, and the Founding Director of the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania

Kara Frederick, Technology and National Security Fellow, Center for a New American Security 

Moderated by Professor Claire Finkelstein, Faculty Director, CERL

Watch the playback

Read the conference report 


October 22, 2019

5:00 PM to 6:30 PM 
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, 3501 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

 Violence Against Women and the U.S. Military

 Join us to learn about current policy and research on violence against women and the U.S. military 




Melissa Dichter, Ph.D., Temple University, conducted multiple studies on violence against women service members 

Andrea Goldstein, MALD, Senior Policy Advisor to the New Women Veterans Task Force, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and former Special Operations Forces troop commander

Andrew Morral, Ph.D., RAND Corporation, who authored several reports to Congress on sexual assault and harassment in the military. 

Emily Rothman, Sc.D., Boston University and, for 2019-2020, is with the Department of Defense, who just completed sexual assault prevention study in the Navy.

Moderator: Kathleen Brown, Ph.D., Penn Department of History and Director of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies

Sponsors: The Ortner Center of Violence and Abuse, The Toll Public Interest Center at Penn Law, The Alice Paul Center for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, The Campaign for Community at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Trustees Council of Penn Women

Watch the webcast 


October 10, 2019

5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
3501 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

 CERL Book Talk — An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer 
 by Julie Salamon


 “Israel is much more complicated than Bibi Netanyahu, and Palestine is much more   complicated than Hamas. If the book serves any useful purpose, it’s to say that any story
 we know may not be the true story.” – Julie Salamon, June 24, 2019, Forward interview


In 1985, four members of the Palestinian Liberation Front hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship  and demanded the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Unsuccessful, they killed passenger Leon Klinghoffer, an American who was wheelchair bound and thrown overboard after being shot. This shocking act of international terrorism became a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a symbol of Americans’ vulnerability and fear before the world stage.

In her book, author Julie Salamon recounts the incident and its drama, the hijackers’ capture and prosecution, and the aftermath for the families, including that of a Palestinian-American killed in the United States in retaliation. She explores the political wrangling of the Reagan administration and other countries, and by drawing on many perspectives, dispels the mythology that she believes grew up around the hijacking.

CERL faculty director Professor Claire Finkelstein will moderate the program.

Julie Salamon is a former journalist and critic at The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. She is the author of fiction and nonfiction books as well as articles for magazines that include The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Bazaar, and The New Republic.  

Sean P. Carter is a member of Cozen O’Connor and concentrates his practice in commercial and mass tort litigation, with a particular focus on cases involving claims under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and Anti-Terrorism Act.

Watch the webcast 

September 26, 2019

3501 Sansom Street, Philadelphia

 Ethical Challenges in the Development of New Weaponry

 The symposium will address four domains of new weaponry development: cybersecurity and artificial intelligence   (AI); biological and chemical convergence; biological enhancements and genetics; and nanotechnology. Panels   will consist of lawyers, ethicists, scientists, military and government service practitioners, technologists, and the   private sector. Panelists will address the risks that new weaponry will used for malign purposes; the relative ease   with which weaponry may be acquired, the adequacy of current regulatory measures, the need for new or better oversight, the relationship between military requirements and private sector innovation, and the need to identify and resolve important ethical and legal issues prior to full scale development and deployment of new weaponries.

 There will be a public keynote address by Gen. Joseph L. Votel, retired four-star general in the United States Army   and former commander of United States Central Command and commander of the United States Special   Operations Command. The keynote is entitled “A Warfighter’s Perspective on the Challenge of Future Weaponry.” 




Watch the Morning Sessions
Watch the Afternoon Sessions
Watch the Keynote Address  


September 17, 2019                             

 CERL Book Talk  —  Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of   Alternative Facts 
 by David McCraw

 In a one-on-one discussion with CERL faculty director Professor Claire Finkelstein, David McCraw, deputy general   counsel of The New York Times, will talk about the challenges and dangers that today’s media companies and   journalists face, including President Trump and his administration, through his experiences as a top newsroom lawyer   at The New York Times for 17 years. 


Watch the webcast 

April 17, 2019

 Protecting Democracy: Modernizing the Foreign Agents Registration Act

 To say that foreign influence in the United States has dominated today’s political discourse would be an   understatement. At the center of this discussion is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an important t   tool designed to safeguard against foreign influence in the US. But FARA, created on the precipice of World War II, is in need of significant modernization to adequately safeguard our democracy. The conference will convene academics, analysts, and practitioners from diverse fields, including law, national security, public policy, and others, to tackle this difficult challenge.

This conference is co-sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and will take place at its headquarters in Washington, DC. 

WATCH this special public forum on 
Modernizing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

co-sponsored by CERL and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)

Broadcast by C-SPAN on April 17, the forum features Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, Prof. Claire Finkelstein of CERL, Rob Kelner of Covington & Burling, and moderator Danielle Pletka of AEI.

Click here to watch

April 11, 2019 

CERL Book Talk - Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson:  Cyberwar:  How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President, What We Don’t, Can’t and Do Know

 The question of how Donald Trump won the 2016 election looms over his presidency. Although not certain, it is     probable that the Russians helped elect the 45th president of the United States.

 Professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson details Russian troll and hacker efforts and how the press, social media, candidates,   party leaders, and a polarized public abetted them.

  • How extensive was the troll messaging?
  • What characteristics of social media did the Russians exploit? 
  • Why did the mainstream press rush the hacked content into the citizenry’s newsfeeds? 
  • Were Clinton’s allegations that debate moderators distorted what she said in leaked speeches? 
  • Did the Russian influence go beyond social media to alter the behavior of FBI director James Comey?

Cyberwar closes with a warning: the country is ill-prepared to prevent a sequel. During her conversation with moderator Professor Claire Finkelstein, Professor Jamieson will integrate the many new developments that have come to light since the book’s original publication.


April 3-4, 2019

 Challenging the Grey Zone: The Changing Character of Warfare and the Application   of International Law


 This two-day closed session conference will address the complex legal, ethical and policy issues involved in grey   zone conflicts. The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) defines grey zone challenges as “competitive interactions among and within state and non-state actors that fall between the traditional war and peace duality.” In the words of Gen. Joseph Votel et al., “[t]he Grey Zone is characterized by intense political, economic, informational, and military competition more fervent in nature than normal steady-state diplomacy, yet short of conventional war.” If the spectrum of conflict is conceived as a line running from peaceful interstate competition on the far left to strategic nuclear exchange on the far right, grey zone conflicts fall left of center. This conference will bring together experts from academia, the military, the law, the private sector, and government agencies to facilitate a dialogue on the ethical, legal, and moral questions that arise from grey zone conflicts.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It is also sponsored by The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School and will be held at the school in Charlottesville, Virginia.

February 14, 2019

 Presidential Power and the Current Crisis of Executive Authority

 A CERL Book Talk based on “Sovereignty and the New Executive Authority ” (Oxford University Press, 2018) and co-edited by Professor Claire Finkelstein

 Click HERE to watch

  Since 9/11, the growth of the national security state has brought with it an increasing struggle to maintain the legal   and ethical boundaries surrounding executive authority, boundaries that help to define and protect democratic   governance. In today’s political landscape, debates about the scope of presidential power have intensified, and they are likely to accelerate even more this year, as a divided Congress does battle over fundamental aspects of civilian leadership while the president continues to press an unprecedented vision of the powers of his office. Questions like whether a sitting president may be indicted, whether the president’s pardon power under the U.S. Constitution allows the president to pardon himself, and whether the president may use emergency powers to fund and build a border wall, will be contentiously debated and may even find their way to the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

Panelists include:

Jonathan Turley , J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law, George Washington University Law School 

Sanford V. Levinson , W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair, Professor of Government, University of Texas Law School 

Sharon Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy and Law, and Political Science, University of Southern California at Dornsife

Michael Skerker, Associate Professor of Leadership, Ethics and Law, U.S. Naval Academy 

Moderated by Claire Finkelstein , Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy and CERL Faculty Director

This conference was co-sponsored by the Journal of International Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.


February 7, 2019

Reporting on National Security: What is the Media’s Role?

CERL is a co-sponsor of this Penn Law National Security Society Inaugural Symposium

Panel: Managing the Tension Between National Security and Freedom of the Press

Click HERE to watch

The panel will be moderated by Professor Claire Finkelstein , Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy; Faculty Director, Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law.  Panelists include:

  • Shawn Turner, Director of Communication for Center for a New American Security (CNAS); former senior national security communication executive in the U.S. government; and a regular contributing on-air national security analyst with CNN
  • David McCraw, Deputy General Counsel of The New York Times company
  • Nathan Siegel, Partner, Davis, Wright, Tremaine, LLP
Keynote: “Journalists Taken Hostage Abroad” by David G. Bradley, Chairman and owner of Atlantic Media whose brands include The Atlantic, National Journal Group, and Government Executive Media Group 


November 2-3, 2018

 Democracy in the Crosshairs: Cyber Interference, Dark   Money and Foreign Influence 

This two-day closed session conference will address the complex legal, ethical, and political issues raised by cyber and non-cyber foreign interference in democratic institutions along with ways policymakers and academics can contribute to efforts to protect against such interference.  

Co-sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at Wharton, and Penn’s Office of Information Security (OIS)

The conference, which will take place at the National Constitution Center, is by invitation only.

November 2, 2018
4:00 pm-6:00 pm 

Click HERE to access WHYY’s audio recording

Foreign Interference in the Democratic Process: Countdown to the Midterms

This keynote panel presentation will take place at the National Constitution Center (525 Arch Street) and is open to the public and free of charge.



U.S. historical and political roots have always signaled a deep-rooted aversion to any form of foreign interference against our country’s democratic institutions. But today, the threat and activity are astonishing Rapid advances in technology, interconnected global communications, flattening of in-person social interactions, creation of social media “bubbles,” and anonymized financial networks have fed and resulted in effective foreign interference efforts on a scale and scope not seen before…and that many believe are outpacing U.S. counter-efforts. 

A Timeless Dilemma but Evolving Faster than Ever Before…  

  • How can the United States and other liberal democracies protect themselves against foreign interference in elections?
  • Have recent efforts to shore up internal defenses against outside interference been adequate? Or do they require re-working?
  • Efforts have been successfully covert. Can we really quantify the scope of these harmful operations and their impact on past (and future) campaigns and outcomes? If the U.S. government cannot conclusively attribute the interference to a specific actor, how can it retaliate?
  • How does the current face of foreign interference differ from that of previous eras? And what will the future of foreign interference operations look like?

The panel discussion will be moderated by Trudy Rubin , award-winning foreign affairs columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Panelists include:

  • Raymond Baker President of Global Financial Integrity and internationally renowned authority on dark money

  • Mitchell OrensteinDepartment Chair of Russian and Eastern European Studies and Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania 
  • Shawn Turner , Director of Communication for Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a former senior national security communication executive in the U.S. government, and a regular contributing on-air national security analyst with CNN

  • Clint Watts , Distinguished Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI); author of Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News; and frequent MSNBC commentator.

Co-sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at Wharton, and Penn’s Office of Information Security (OIS) 

November 1, 2018
4:30 pm-6:00 pm

 The Distinguished Paul G. Haaga, Jr. Lecture in Law,   Government, and Public Policy:  
 Russian New Generation Warfare and the Threat to the
 Free World

 by Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster
 United States Army, Ret.; former National Security Advisor; and a Perry World House Global Order Distinguished Visiting Fellow

Followed by Q & A moderated by Professor Claire Finkelstein

October 4, 2018 
4:00 pm-5:30 pm

CERL Book Talk — Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro: 
The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World

The book talk will take place at Perry World House (3803 Locust Walk) and is open to the public and free of charge.

The Internationalists tells the story of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 (the Peace Pact) by placing it in the long history of international law from the seventeenth century through the present, tracing this rich history through a fascinating and diverse array of lawyers, politicians and intellectuals—Hugo Grotius, Nishi Amane, Salmon Levinson, James Shotwell, Sumner Welles, Carl Schmitt, Hersch Lauterpacht, and Sayyid Qutb. It tells of a centuries-long struggle of ideas over the role of war in a just world order. It details the brutal world of conflict the Peace Pact helped extinguish, and the subsequent era where tariffs and sanctions take the place of tanks and gunships.

The Internationalists examines with renewed appreciation an international system that has outlawed wars of aggression and brought unprecedented stability to the world map. Accessible and gripping, this book will change the way we view the history of the twentieth century—and how we must work together to protect the global order the internationalists fought to make possible. 

September 20-21, 2018

 Interrogation and Torture: Integrating Efficacy with Law   and Morality

 This two-day closed session conference will examine the new scientific   research, practices, and legal developments. These advancements have the potential to transform the conversation on interrogation and torture in many fields of study—psychology, neuroscience, career investigation and interrogation, philosophy, ethics, legal study and practice, and international relations—as well as to transform the current policies and practices of governments worldwide. 

The conference is by invitation only.

September 20, 2018
4:30 pm-6:30 pm

Public Keynote Address by Juan E. Méndez
A Universal Protocol for Investigative Interviewing: An End to Interrogation and Torture

Panel discussion with Juan Mendez, Alberto Mora, and Stephen Xenakis, M.D., to follow. Moderated by Professor Claire Finkelstein.

The program will take place at Penn Law and is open to the public and free of charge. 

Juan Méndez, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, introduced in 2016 an initiative calling for a universal protocol that sets standards for interviewing subjects without coercion. He continues to be an active advocate of a universal protocol for non-coercive interviews conducted by law enforcement officials, military and intelligence personnel, and other bodies with investigative mandates. The protocol’s aim is to ensure that authorities discontinue confession-based interrogation of criminal suspects, political and war prisoners, and other detainees so that no one is subjected to torture, mistreatment, or coercion.  Professor Méndez will make the case for the protocol, which through its standards and guidelines, calls for the search for truth, the presumption of innocence, constructive interaction with international human rights law, and adaptation to different legal cultures. He will also report on the current state of the initiative and the need to generate support.  

Professor Mendez’s address will be followed by a panel discussion with conference participants Mr. Alberto Moro and Stephen Xenakis , M.D. Panelists will discuss the psychological damage torture causes, the costs to the United States and world from its use, and whether it could come back to the United States, and how to prevent its return. Moderated by Claire Finkelstein, Professor of Law and CERL Director

September 13, 2018
5:00 pm-6:30 pm

CERL Book Talk — General Michael V. Hayden:  
The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies

open to the public and free of charge

General Michael V. Hayden, former CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) director, will appear at the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law of the University of Pennsylvania Law School to discuss his best-selling and critically acclaimed book, The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (Penguin Press). CERL Faculty Director Claire Finkelstein will moderate.

In his book, General Hayden, also a retired four-star U.S. Air Force general, presents a “blistering critique of the forces threatening the American intelligence community.” In the clear, fact-rich, and insightful approach of his book, General Hayden will make the case and generate discussion on these timely and critically important issues.

The book talk is open to the public and free of charge. 


April 5-7, 2018

 The Weaponization of Outer Space: Ethical and Legal   Boundaries

 Co-sponsored by Analytical Graphics Inc. (AGI) & Canadian Department of National Defence (DND)

Our 21st century lives are highly dependent on space-based technologies: from cell phone and internet telecommunications, to financial transactions, to GPS for international transport. Both civilian and military activities are increasingly space-based, making satellites an increasingly interesting target when seeking to cripple an adversary. China, Russia and the U.S. have deployed various tests in space in recent years, leading to speculation that they all possess anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) capabilities. There is a move towards weaponization of space, despite the core principle of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that space shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. In response, a more active stance towards space defense has entered the policy rhetoric of India, Israel and Japan. Various federal government agencies are occupied with the question how the U.S. can gain dominance in the space domain, seeking to develop offensive space control and active defensive strategies and capabilities. But there is an enormous ethical concern: creating a space-based arms race may put in place the exact conditions for a conflict in space, which these policies purport to seek to avoid.

Due to many unique characteristics of the space domain, an armed conflict in space would be catastrophic for all players, including neutral States, commercial actors, and international civil society. Yet it is the most technologically advanced States, such as the U.S., who stand the most to lose from a space-based conflict. The questions then arise, how can the U.S. and its allies protect their space assets from being targeted, without contributing to further escalation of an arms race, to increased aggressive policy threats, or to the potential of a space-based conflict?  How can we clarify the law on the use of force and the law of armed conflict applicable to space? And what would ethical space security policies require? 

March 19, 2018



CERL Book Talk: Luke Harding discusses his NY Times #1 Bestseller “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win”

In light of the continually unfolding drama surrounding investigations into the Trump election campaign, Luke Harding’s book is understandably a bestseller. Though it does not claim to provide the “smoking gun” proof that would bring the investigation to a dramatic conclusion, it does provide evidence that, when stacked up and read altogether in one place, is overwhelmingly compelling.

Harding, who served as The Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief for four years before being thrown out of the country for his critical reporting on Vladimir Putin’s government, presents a powerful case for Russian interference, and Trump campaign collusion. Harding’s previous book A Very Expensive Poison, about the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s war with the west, caused much controversy for the author while in Russia, and he later met many of the characters who now feature in the current investigations.

Join us to learn more about Harding’s close insights, and to hear his take on current events as they unfold. The talk will be moderated by NBC reporter Lauren Mayk. 

March 16, 2018

Legal Responses to the Opioid Crisis
Co-sponsored by the National Attorneys General Training and Research Institute, and the Sheller Family Foundation. 
This conference will consist of two parts. The morning session is by invitation only. The afternoon session is open to the public. We welcome your registration for the afternoon portion of the event by RSVP - see below.
“The Opioid Addiction Crisis has tragically impacted our country with an estimated annual death rate of 65,000 – more than the total loss of life from the Vietnam War and the death rate from HIV at the peak of the epidemic. Opioid abuse and addiction has become a vexing and complex public health issue that cuts across multiple sectors of our society. High risk groups include veterans and Native Americans.[1]  It is an issue that requires the nation to commit planning and resources across multiple federal, state, and local agencies and institutions to mitigate the harm.

Despite recognition from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that we are lacking critical evidence about the safety and effectiveness of treating pain with opioids, the rate of opioid prescription for veterans as well as for the general population has increased exponentially over the past decade.

Many have begun to question the ethical and legal ramifications of persistent opioid prescription.  How are the current laws and regulations addressing the crisis? What are the implications of the “War on Drugs” on the opioid epidemic? State and local law enforcement have been in the vanguard of addressing this crisis, but many feel that the efforts of responsible agencies in the federal government lags behind.  Are state and local efforts being adequately supported by the federal government?  What kind of regulation is needed at both levels of government at this late stage in the crisis?  What measures should be taken to avoid a public health crisis of this dimension in the future? What is the liability of pharmaceutical companies in relation to doctors? Are federal agencies, particularly the FDA, the Veterans Administration (VA) and possibly the CDC responsible for failing to protect veterans and other vulnerable consumers from the perils of addiction?”


March 15, 2018

CERL Book Talk: Mark Fallon, Unjustifiable Means – a discussion with Fallon, Brig. Gen. Steve Xenakis and former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora

Discussion with the author, Retired Brigadier General Steve Xenakis, former General Counsel of the Navy Alberto Mora, and moderated by CERL Director Prof. Claire Finkelstein

 In Unjustifiable Means, Fallon reveals this dark side of the United States government, which threw our own laws and international covenants aside to become a nation that tortured—sanctioned by the highest-ranking members of the Bush Administration, the Army, and the CIA, many of whom still hold government positions, although none have been held accountable. Until now.

Follow along as Fallon pieces together how this shadowy group incrementally—and secretly—loosened the reins on interrogation techniques at Gitmo and later, Abu-Ghraib, and black sites around the world. He recounts how key psychologists disturbingly violated human rights and adopted harsh practices to fit the Bush administration’s objectives even though such tactics proved ineffective, counterproductive, and damaging to our own national security. Fallon untangles the powerful decisions the administration’s legal team—the Bush “War Counsel”—used to provide the cover needed to make torture the modus operandi of the United States government. As Fallon says, “You could clearly see it coming, you could wave your arms and yell, but there wasn’t a damn thing you could do to stop it.”

Unjustifiable Means is hard-hitting, raw, and explosive, and forces the spotlight back on to how America lost its way. Fallon also exposes those responsible for using torture under the guise of national security, as well as those heroes who risked it all to oppose the program. By casting a defining light on one of America’s darkest periods, Mark Fallon weaves a cautionary tale for those who wield the power to reinstate torture. 

February 15, 2018

An Introduction to International Space Law

 Hosted by the Journal of International Law, this talk by CERL Acting Executive Director Dr. Cassandra Steer will give an overview of international space law, and provide background on the legal and political issues at stake when we consider the weaponization of outer space and the potential for an armed conflict to take place in our near-Earth environment. “Star Wars” may be closer in reality than you think, but there are steps that can be taken to prevent it. The Journal of International Law is hosting this lunchtime symposium as a lead-up to the conference organized by CERL titled “The Weaponization of Outer Space: Legal and Ethical Boundaries”, to be held in April.

Gittis 214, 12:00 – 1:00pm


January 31, 2018

CERL Book Talk: Ryan Alford discusses Permanent State of Emergency: Unchecked Executive Power and the Demise of the Rule of Law

In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched initiatives that test the limits of international human rights law. The indefinite detention and torture of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, targeted killing, and mass surveillance require an expansion of executive authority that negates the rule of law.

In Permanent State of Emergency, Ryan Alford establishes that the ongoing failure to address human rights abuses is a symptom of the most serious constitutional crisis in American history. Instead of curbing the increase in executive power, Congress and the courts facilitated the breakdown of the nation’s constitutional order and set the stage for presidential supremacy. The presidency, Alford argues, is now more than imperial: it is an elective dictatorship. Providing both an overview and a systematic analysis of the new regime, he objectively demonstrates that it does not meet even the minimum requirements of the rule of law. At this critical juncture in American democracy, Permanent State of Emergency alerts the public to the structural transformation of the state and reiterates the importance of the constitutional limits of the American presidency. 

November 9-10, 2017

 Navigating Law and Ethics at the Crossroads of Journalism
 and National Security

 Co-hosted by CERL and the Annenberg School for Communication, the roundtable conference will convene academics, analysts, and practitioners from fields as diverse as law, journalism, media, public policy, philosophy, national security, and others to explore some of the most pressing legal and ethical challenges that lie at the nexus of national security and journalism today.

Event website  

The invitation only conference will be supplemented by a public conversation at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, from 5:00 – 6:30 pm on November 9, 2017, entitled, 

Freedom of the Press and National Security in the Era of Trump: Reconciling Competing Values in Democratic Governance


This segment of the two-day “Navigating Law and Ethics at the Crossroads of Journalism and National Security“  conference is open to the public and seat are on a first come/first served basis. Journalists and the government have a shared responsibility to protect the autonomy of the press, to keep the public duly informed, and to ensure accurate coverage of important issues affecting U.S. security. They must also grapple with the competing responsibilities to protect classified information from disclosure and to safeguard the public from deliberate misinformation or “fake news.” A distinguished panel will share and debate views on these issues in a moderated discussion.

Panelists will include: Laura Handman, Esq, Partner Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
James Risen, investigative Journalist, The Intercept and First Look Media; Charlie Savage, Washington Correspondent, The New York Times.

Moderated by: Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO, National Constitution Center.

Introduction By: Claire Finkelstein, Co-Founder and Faculty Director of CERL, Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania 

This event is co-sponsored by the Annenberg School for Communication (ASC), the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication at ASC, the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Miller & Chevalier. 

November 8, 2017

 CERL-Hosted Brown-Bag Event: Book Talk Series with Dr.   Christopher J. Fuller

Dr. Christopher Fuller is a Lecturer in Modern American History, University of
Southampton, U.K. He will be speaking about his book, “See It, Shoot It; The Secret
History of CIA’s Lethal Drone Program”, during the first in a series of new book talks that CERL will host during the 2017-18 academic year. “See It, Shoot It” has been described as eye-opening study uncovers the history of the most important instrument of U.S. counterterrorism today: the armed drone. It reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the CIA’s covert drone program is not a product of 9/11. Rather, it is the result of U.S. counterterrorism practices extending back to an influential group of policy makers in the Reagan administration. 

Tracing the evolution of counterterrorism policy and drone technology from the fallout of Iran-Contra and the CIA’s “Eagle Program” prototype in the mid-1980s to the emergence of al-Qaeda, Fuller  shows how George W. Bush and Obama built upon or discarded strategies from the Reagan and Clinton eras as they responded to changes in the partisan environment, the perceived level of
threat, and technological advances. Examining a range of counterterrorism strategies, he reveals
why the CIA’s drones became the United States’ preferred tool for pursuing the decades-old goal
of preemptively targeting anti-American terrorists around the world.

This book talk will be moderated by Mark Nevitt, Former aviator  and attorney in the U.S. Navy, Sharswood Fellow at Penn Law.  

November 2, 2017

 KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAChallenges when Reporting on Human Rights and Governance

 Co-Sponsored by CERL & Moderated by Marc Ambinder, Journalist-in-Residence.

Yevgenia Albats will discuss the consequences of specific ethical challenges that she has faced in her own career. In 1997, Albats was fired from Izvestia after publishing a major article exposing alleged illegal activities by the FSB (but restored by court order). She has spoken out against the danger facing journalists in Russia, including last week’s knife attack on her colleague at radio station Ekho Moskvy, one of few outlets for independent journalism in Russia.

 Yevgenia Albats is a Russian investigative journalist, political scientist, writer and radio host. She has received global recognition for her work on issues of human rights, corruption and governance. Albats is chief editor of The New Times magazine, and holds a position in the leadership of the Russian Jewish Congress. From 1993 to 2000, Albats served as a member of the Clemency Commission at the Executive Office of the President of the Russian Federation. Albats was the first Soviet journalist to investigate the the KGB when the communist regime was still in control.

 Marc Ambinder is Journalist-in-Residence with Penn Law’s Center for Ethics and Rule of Law (CERL). Ambinder is adjunct professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and an editor-at-large of The Week. He is the author, with D.B. Grady, of The Command and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Marc is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and GQ. Formerly, he served as White House correspondent for National Journal, chief political consultant for CBS News, and politics editor at The Atlantic. 

Program co-sponsored by the Office of International Programs, the Center for Ethics and Rule of Law (CERL), Perry World House, and the Kelly Writer’s House. 

 October 11, 2017

 North Korea: Bargaining in the Shadow of Armed Conflict

 Location: Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania 

 The challenges posed by a nuclear North Korea to the global community have constituted ongoing headline news for the last two decades. However, ever since the country withdrew from the multilateral Six-Party Talks in 2009, the development of North Korea’s nuclearization efforts have greatly intensified, and opportunities for a peaceful resolution seem daunting. Kim Jong Un’s irrational penchant for chaos and destruction cannot be tamed without escalated involvement from his allies in China and Russia. North Korea’s historic commitment to the Kim family’s ideology of juche, or “self-reliance,” emboldens the country’s diplomatic, financial, and military autarky from the outside world, and complicates the prospect of compromise by excluding the traditional mechanisms of negotiation and bargaining from consideration. Finally, the chance of military engagement poses perils untold for South Korea, as nearly half of the country’s population lives within 50 miles of the DMZ. 

This symposium, which is open to the public, is designed to facilitate an enhanced awareness of the possible advantages and challenges in entering negotiations with North Korea. To weigh whether negotiation can or should be available, experts representing a wide range of experiences and interests will engage in two sequential, moderated panels, followed by a keynote address.

Event Web  

September 8, 2017

Does Democracy Matter?  The United States and Global Democracy Support

Location:  Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania

The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) is sponsoring a symposium at the Perry World House on Friday, September 8, 2017, entitled, “Does Democracy Matter?  The United States and Global Democracy Support.”

Event website

April 18, 2017

CERL presents: Foreign Interference with Democratic Institutions featuring the 2017 Haaga Lecture


Time: 1:00pm

Location: Golkin 100, Michael A. Fitts Auditorium

The Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) will hold a half-day event designed to deepen our understanding of the risks faced by the U.S. as well as other democratic nations from foreign interference in the democratic process, with a focus on cyber-interference. 

This event will be immediately followed by the Distinguished Haaga Lecture, which will be given this year by General Michael Hayden.


The discovery of widespread attempts to influence  the 2016 Presidential election  in the U.S. on the part of the Russians has sent shockwaves through the public and has forced us to begin to re-evaluate the current nature of the threats to democratic values and adherence to the rule of law on behalf of foreign governments that do not share the U.S. commitments to the integrity of basic democratic institutions.  Drawing lessons from the recent revelations of Russian cyberhacking, as well as Russian involvement in the dissemination of fake news, there is a growing awareness that our reliance on computerized communications and data processing has created vulnerabilities for foreign interference that we had previously overlooked or underestimated. 

Cyberattacks or interference with the elections of rival nations is thus emerging as a threat to national security of epic proportions.  This program will be divided into two panels:  the first panel will consider the nature of the threat posed by Russian hacking and cyber intelligence operations more generally, and will seek an understanding of the legal status of these activities.  Does cyberhacking and targeted interference in the U.S. election constitute an act of war?  If not, then how should we understand our relationship with countries that regularly engage in these activities?  If so, then what actions are permissible under the law of armed conflict to forestall or prevent such attacks on our institutions and those of our allies?  Is kinetic action ever justified as a response or in anticipation of a cyber attack?  The second panel will address the implications of the flooding of social media with fake news by foreign powers. 

Even without security breaches and the hacking efforts on the part of the Russians, the impact of false information disseminated as credible news on social media has implications both for national security and for the integrity of bona fide news organizations.  How should we address the dangers posed by the dissemination of fake news and what can we do to protect against the risk that the public that makes critical political decisions will be misinformed and manipulated?  How can we combat the dangers of fake news at the same time that we continue to protect and safeguard first amendment rights of both the press and individuals under the Constitution?   What are the implications of these cyber activities for the authority of government leaders when their mandate to rule is partially the product of the espionage and other covert activities of rival sovereign powers?  This event will be immediately followed by the Distinguished Haaga Lecture, which will be given this year by General Michael Hayden.

Event Website  

April 4-6, 2017

 Preserving Art and Culture in Times of Armed Conflict

 In March 2001, six months before the attacks of 9/11, the Taliban provoked   international outrage when it destroyed two Ancient statues of the Buddha carved into a hillside in the Bamiyan valley in Afghanistan. Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s leader at time, considered the statues idolatrous, and the effort to destroy them was part of a broader effort to purge the nation of pre-Islamic cultural sites and artifacts. This episode provides a vivid illustration of the degree to which cultural property has become a target in modern warfare. Achieving a better understanding of the damage inflicted by such attacks and strengthening efforts to prevent them will be the aim of our present conference.

Beyond demoralizing the enemy in war, the obliteration and looting of sacred buildings, works of art, and religious articles has the additional purpose of effacing a people’s connection to a particular locale, possibly paving the way for the permanent displacement of that population. Thus, the destruction of cultural property is more than a material and aesthetic loss, but a component of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Seeing the problem in this light adds greater urgency to the effort to stop such tragic acts.

This two and a half day conference will attempt to solidify the moral and legal basis for preserving art and culture against destruction, and the extent of the duty to do so. Should we risk lives to protect art and culture? Or should we intervene in the destruction of culture only when it is incident to our other military aims? The conference will also examine how art is used to fund terrorism and what methods and means can be introduced to eliminate the black market in looted art. What responsibility does an occupying force have to prevent its own forces from taking “souvenirs,” and what responsibility does it have to protect those same artifacts from looting or destruction by the occupied nation’s own citizens or from neglect by bureaucratic incompetency or indifference? Finally, the conference will discuss efforts to bring perpetrators to justice and create an international legal framework for preventing such incidents in the future.



The conference starts with a public keynote panel titled New Frontiers in the Protection of Cultural Property on Tuesday, April 4 at 5pm. Registration is strongly recommended. Register here .

Dr. Richard Leventhal, Director of the Penn Museum’s Penn Center for Cultural Heritage, will moderate a wide-ranging discussion with panelists: Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO; Karima Bennoune, Professor of International Law, University of California-Davis School of Law and United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Derek Gillman, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, Drexel University, and Former Executive Director and President, Barnes Foundation; Hon. Richard Goldstone, former judge, Appellate Division, Supreme Court of South Africa; and Shamila Batohi, Senior Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court.

A cocktail reception and opportunity to preview the new exhibition Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq follows the panel discussion (limited timed tickets available with advance reservations). Presented by the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center.

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October 27-29, 2016

Using Law to Fight Terror: Legal Approaches to Combatting Violent Non-State Actors

Combating violent extremism has become the highest national security priority among the U.S. and its allies in recent years. The emergence of organizations such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) represent an urgent domestic and foreign policy challenge: How can we address the threat posed by violent non-state actors while adhering to the rule of law values that form the core of democratic governance? The approach to doing so has thus far been a predominantly military one. Yet the legal framework surrounding these operations has never been clearly articulated.

The central aim of Using Law to Fight Terror is to enhance the effectiveness of our current approach by (a) exploiting the merits of different frameworks for responding forcefully to the threats posed by non-state actors while remaining constrained by ethical principles and rule of law values; (b) identifying the current challenges that confront us in our current reliance on military action; and (c) identifying alternative approaches to the security threat posed by non-states actors, ones developed within a legal framework, though perhaps implemented with military aid to civilian authorities. CERL will bring together a wide and prominent group of policy makers, highly placed military leaders, and scholars from a wide variety of different disciplines to collaborate in the development and implementation of strategic complements to current military practice in confronting violent non-state actors. 

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September 22, 2016

CERL Presents: WHYY Voices in the Family: Understanding Trauma in Sex and War

Time: 4:00pm - 6:00pm

Location: Golkin 100, Michael A. Fitts Auditorium

The impact of sexual violence on victims is so severe that it has been compared by many professionals to the impact of war on combatants and civilian victims. What can the comparison between sexual and combat trauma teach us about the nature of trauma, and does it indicate something about possible treatments? Studying post-traumatic stress across civilian and military behavioral health contexts may provide new hope for those whose lives have been permanently marked by traumatic events.

In partnership with the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL), Dr. Dan Gottlieb and a panel of experts will examine the impact of trauma in both contexts.  What do different types of trauma have in common?  How are they different and what treatments are effective in each case?  What are the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress and how should educational and military institutions deal with vulnerability to post-traumatic stress?  Finally, when should sufferers of post-traumatic stress seek help and where should they seek it?

This special will be recorded for future broadcast at WHYY. 

September 15, 2016

CERL Presents: Producing Leaders of Character and Integrity: Instilling Values into Public Life

Time: 8:00am - 8:00pm

Location: Golkin 100, Michael A. Fitts Auditorium

This symposium will focus on concepts of ethical leadership and explore the contribution that educational, military, political, professional and business institutions can make towards the development of ethical leaders. CERL’s contribution to this topic reflects its focus on rule of law values: where individuals have internalized respect for the rule of law their stewardship is both ethically grounded and maximally effective.

This program has been approved for 6.5 ethics CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $260.00 ($130.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check made payable toThe Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

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CERL 2016 Summer Film Series

Join the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) this summer as we explore ethical and legal issues concerning national security, armed conflict, and the lives of veterans through the lens of contemporary cinema.  CERL will screen recent films exploring the challenging personal and political questions that arise in times of war. Topics include the controversy over the torture of U.S. detainees in Iraq (Ghosts of Abu Ghraib), the dynamics of leadership during wartime (Lincoln), and the impact of combat and post-traumatic stress on returning veterans and their families (The Messenger), among others.  A brief discussion period with the audience will follow each screening.  All screenings are free and open to the public.

The inaugural film screening of Ghosts of Abu Ghraib will be held on Thursday, June 9th, at 3:00pm, at the University of Pennsylvania, Gittis Hall 002 (in the basement).

Subsequent screenings will be held on Tuesdays at 3:00pm EST in the Fitts Auditorium, University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Please RSVP by following the links below.

  Gittis Hall, 002, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Thursday, June 9th, 3:00pm: Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (2007)
  Fitts Auditorium, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Tuesday, June 14th, 3:00pm The Counterfeiters (2007)
Tuesday, June 21st, 3:00pm Rules of Engagement (2000)
Tuesday, June 28th, 2:30pm Lincoln (2012)
Tuesday, July 5th, 3:00pm The Messenger (2009)
Tuesday, July 12th, 3:00pm Woman in Gold (2015)
Tuesday, July 19th, 3:00pm Eye in the Sky (2015)

April 20, 2016

CERL Presents: An Exclusive Screening of Thank Your For Your Service

 Time: 4:30pm - 8:00pm

 Location: Golkin 100, Michael A. Fitts Auditorium

 Please join us for a screening of Thank You for Your Service followed by a panel   discussion and Q&A with the film’s director, Tom Donahue; retired Brigadier   General,   U.S. Army, and combat trauma expert, Dr. Stephen Xenakis; and retired   Major, U.S. Army, Ben Richards. This is event is free and open to the public. A public   reception will follow.

Thank You for Your Service makes a powerful statement about our insufficient understanding of combat trauma, moral injury, and how the impact of trauma should figure in the costs of war. Director Tom Donahue interweaves the stories of four struggling Iraq War veterans with candid interviews of top military and civilian leaders. Observing the systemic neglect of trauma victims, the film argues for significant internal change and offers a roadmap of hope.

4:30 – 6:00pm:         Screening of Thank You for Your Service

6:00 – 7:00pm:         Panel discussion and Q&A with Tom Donahue, the film’s director; Dr. Stephen Xenakis, retired Brigadier General, U.S. Army; Ben Richards, retired Major, U.S. Army

7:00 – 8:00pm:         Public cocktail reception

This program has been approved for 2.5 ethics CLE credits for Pennsylvania lawyers. CLE credit may be available in other jurisdictions as well. Attendees seeking CLE credit should bring separate payment in the amount of $50.00 ($25.00 public interest/non-profit attorneys) cash or check made payable toThe Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

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April 14-16, 2016

The Ethics of Negotiations in Armed Conflict

Negotiation ConferenceWhen states conduct negotiations in the shadow of armed conflict, the exercise of diplomacy presents certain unique challenges. Negotiating with “rogue states,” for example, raises the concern that we are helping to legitimize governments and practices we otherwise strongly condemn. Nonetheless, as some have argued, there may be an obligation to negotiate with such a state when it comes to grave security issues like weapons of mass destruction. How do the alternatives to negotiation impact the moral considerations involved in dealing with such states? Does negotiating with non-state actors, through official state channels or otherwise, undermine the international order by conferring a legitimacy and authority traditionally granted only to states? Similarly, when confronted with non-state hostage takers, many governments insist that they will not negotiate.  Recently, however, the Obama administration has indicated that it will no longer bar families of hostages from paying ransom to kidnappers. How will this shift in policy impact official governmental relations with hostage takers? Does a willingness to deal with hostage takers encourage their behavior? Conversely, is it ethical to refuse to negotiate with them in the name of deterrence? 

Finally, democracies face expectations of transparency and open public debate. In a democracy, what role should the public play in deciding whether to negotiate? Is secrecy necessary for diplomacy to be effective in certain cases—as with Kissinger’s trips to China? How might the role of secrecy change with respect to not only other states, but non-state armed groups? The conference will bring together high-level academics, military personnel, diplomats, and policymakers to engage in a multifaceted conversation on the legal, moral, and practical dimensions of these vital topics. 

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December 3-5, 2015

Preventing and Treating the Invisible Wounds of War: Combat Trauma and Psychological Injury

PTSD ConferenceThe financial toll of PTSD alone on U.S. economy is estimated to range in the billions of dollars, however it fails to account for the full societal and moral impact of mental health-related combat injuries. Those suffering from such injuries often have difficulty finding gainful employment, are prone to violent outbursts and substance abuse, and exhibit suicidal tendencies. Further, psychological harm related to the conduct of hostilities impacts civilians, particularly women and children, increasing the collateral costs of war. Taking these and other consequences of combat trauma into account within traditional Just War Theory presents significant challenges. Should mental health costs to service members and civilians in areas of conflict be included in the calculations of governments contemplating whether to engage in an armed conflict? Should battlefield commanders assess potential mental harms to civilians as part of the proportionality analysis of “collateral damage” conducted prior to each military engagement? Additionally, when a service member witnesses or commits a transgression from deeply held moral beliefs and expectations, he or she may suffer from what has been termed “moral injury.” Should moral injury be recognized as a mental health concern that is distinct from PTSD? Are soldiers particularly vulnerable to moral injury while confronting non-state actors embedded in civilian population? 

Further questions arise in considering possible measures to prevent and treat combat trauma.  Inoculating soldiers to the horrors of warfare through pre-deployment battlefield simulations or pharmacological intervention may reduce the likelihood of trauma.  Such programs, however, have been criticized as desensitizing soldiers to moral indignation and reducing their capacity for sound moral decision making in combat.  Similarly, PTSD treatment in the proximity of the battlefield facilitates expedient return to active duty, but may also decrease the potential of full long-term recovery. How should these aspects of prevention and treatment protocols be considered, and weighed? Finally, there are important legal and ethical questions relating to criminal and civil liability of service members suffering from mental harms. For instance, should war inflicted mental harms be taken into account in criminal trials, and to what extent? This conference will bring together policymakers and high-level experts from the military, academia, and the mental health community, to engage in a multifaceted conversation on the legal, moral and practical dimensions of these dilemmas. 

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September 17, 2015

Iran’s Nuclear Chess: After the Deal

CERL’s opening event for the 2015-2016 academic year aims to illuminate the moral aspects of the negotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Discussions will revolve around the ethical and strategic dilemmas that arise when democratic nations attempt to negotiate with states who reject democratic and rule of law values. In which circumstances is it ethically permissible to negotiate with such regimes? Is focusing on Iran’s nuclear program while disregarding its connection with terrorism problematic from the standpoint of legitimizing and marginalizing such behavior? Is it strategically wise? How should lawmakers in a democracy respond to diplomatic efforts of this sort on the part of the executive branch? The wide ranging experience and expertise of CERL’s distinguished guests will enable them to present their unique perspectives on these and related questions, furthering CERL’s aim to revitalize the often neglected moral dimension of international diplomacy.

April 15, 2015

Public Keynote: Sarah Chayes, “Counterproductive Coalitions”

Photo Credit: Kaveh Sardari, 2014Photo Credit: Kaveh Sardari, 2014Ms. Sarah Chayes, Senior Associate,  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“Counterproductive Coalitions”

 Partnering with “front-line” militaries has become a centerpiece of President Obama’s counter-terrorism policy.  Yet the governments those militaries serve might be described as sophisticated criminal organizations, whose core objective is the use of public office to amass personal gain.  Though human rights considerations do constrain some delivery of U.S. military assistance, the problem may be broader than the Leahy Law, for example, draws it.  Are these really the best partners in the effort to combat extremism?  What precautions are being taken to avoid associating the U.S. with the abuses of these governments?

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April 15-16, 2015

Ethical Dilemmas in the Global Defense Industry

The defense industry operates at the intersection of the public and private sectors in a global arena and routinely interacts with foreign legal systems and diverse cultures.  Navigating these different contexts creates challenges for the defense industry, particularly where legal and ethical norms conflict.  How should a defense industry company conduct business in countries where government officials operate according to different moral norms?  Should the defense industry be responsive to ethical objections to technological developments in the context of surveillance or controversial new weapons such as autonomous weapons systems?  Should the global defense industry be held to a higher standard than other industries given the sensitive and potentially controversial nature of its enterprise?  Domestically, other pressing questions arise.  Should partnerships between the defense industry and institutions of higher learning be encouraged?  Do such partnerships raise ethical concerns?

The purpose of this conference, held in partnership with Lockheed Martin Corporation, is to inspire constructive discussion pertaining to such questions, by bringing  together distinguished practitioners and scholars from the private sector, academia, government service and the military to engage in an in-depth exploration of the moral and legal challenges facing the global defense industry.

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April 1, 2015

Perceptions of Risk: How We Manage Emergencies 

Perceptions of Risk - Low resolution.pngThe study of risk management across a variety of domains is an essential part of policymaking today.  From public health to national security, market analysis, and natural disaster emergency response, the question of how to assess and to respond to risks is of the utmost importance.  Important questions pertaining to the public perception include:  Does the public perceive risks accurately or are public perceptions distorted by cognitive biases?  Should public perceptions of risk be taken into account in risk management plans even if they seem “irrational”?  Should preparedness for disasters follow the same template as management of more ordinary risks?  Should the management of risk in the public sector differ from that in the private?  Should the risk of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, be handled in the same way as the risk of human threats, such as terrorism or criminal activity?  Does a serious threat that persists over a protracted period of time, such as a daily threat of terrorism, still count as a security emergency?  When are restrictions of civil liberties, such as quarantines or preventive restraint, justified to pre-empt risk of harm to the general public?

The purpose of this Symposium, co-sponsored by CERL, is to foster multi-disciplinary and inter-professional conversation about risk perception and strategies of emergency management. The panelists will engage in a conversation about emergency preparedness and how our perceptions of risk factor into those efforts. 

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March 3, 2015

An exclusive screening of ‘The Future of Interrogation: National Security in 21st Century Conflict”

On Tuesday, March 3, 2015, there will be an exclusive screening of video segments from “The Future of Interrogation: National Security in 21st Century Conflict,” a panel discussion being held in Washington, DC at the National Press Club on February 25th. The screening will be followed by a conversation with Professor Claire Finkelstein, Director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, and Professor William Burke-White, Director of Perry World House. Light refreshments will be served.

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February 25, 2015

The Future of Interrogation: National Security in 21st Century Conflict

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program (SSCI Report) has sparked discussion about Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) and reignited the debate about the ethics and legality of their use. The Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) in collaboration with Perry World House, both of the University of Pennsylvania, will host a public panel assessing the SSCI Report’s findings with regard to the ethics and legality of EIT. The panel will take into consideration the moral and legal rights of detainees, the role of international law in general, and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) particularly in constraining interrogation practices.

Additionally, the role of professionals–lawyers, doctors, journalists, and others who are bound by strict ethical codes of conduct–presents a particularly complex question. In rationalizing and implementing EIT, professional ethical codes can come into conflict with national security imperatives. Do professionals have a duty to oppose national security operations that violate the ethical standards of their professions? Should they have a further duty to disclose such violations to the public? How should violation of such duties be handled?

Finally, the SSCI Report itself has been highly controversial. Some see the report as a long overdue exposure of a doleful chapter in our nation’s recent history. Others see the report as an exercise in partisan politics, suggesting inaccurate statements about the efficacy of EITs as well as holding the intelligence community to unrealistic standards of accountability. The panel will explore these and related complex relationships in a non-partisan manner by bringing together a distinguished group of panelists from different professions.

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November 21-22, 2014

The Ethics of Autonomous Weapons Systems

Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS) are defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as “a weapon system(s) that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further intervention by a human operator.” Since the crucial distinguishing mark of human reasoning is the capacity to set ends and goals, the AWS suggests for the first time the possibility of eliminating the human operator from the battlefield. The development of AWS technology on a broad scale, therefore, represents the potential for a transformation in the structure of war that is qualitatively different from previous military technological innovations.

The idea of fully autonomous weapons systems raises a host of intersecting philosophical and psychological issues, as well as unique legal challenges. For example, it sharply raises the question of whether moral decision-making by human beings involves an intuitive, non-algorithmic capacity that is not likely to be captured by even the most sophisticated of computers?  Is this intuitive moral perceptiveness on the part of human beings ethically desirable? Does the legitimate exercise of deadly force should always require a “meaningful human control?” Should the very definition of AWS focus on the system’s capabilities for autonomous target selection and engagement, or on the human operator’s use of such capabilities?  Who, if anyone, should bear the legal liability for decisions the AWS makes?  The purpose of this conference is to address such questions by bringing together distinguished scholars and practitioners from various fields, to engage in constructive discussion and exploration of the moral and legal challenges posed by Autonomous Weapons Systems.

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April 11-12, 2014

The Weighing of Lives in War: Combatants and Civilians in the Jus in Bello

The weight assigned to combatants’ lives has further implications beyond the battlefield.  For example, the more risk on the battlefield soldiers are expected to bear, arguably the greater the national obligation to compensate and care for wounded warriors.  An argument for minimizing combatant exposure, on the other hand, would have implications for the technologies we should be willing to use in order to minimize combatant casualties, even if some such technologies pose an increased risk of collateral damage. CERL’s roundtable discussion will foster an interdisciplinary discussion on these and related topics, drawing together academics and practitioners to discuss the concept of combatancy and the policy its implications.

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November 22-23, 2013

On the Very Idea of Secret Laws:  Transparency and Publicity in Deliberative Democracy

In Philosophical Investigations, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgentein famously suggested that language is a public, shared phenomenon, and accordingly, that there is no such thing as a “private language.”  A similar doubt might be raised about the possibility of a “private law”:  Is a law that is not publicly shared a conceptual contradiction, in the way a private language might be?  What are the publicity conditions on the concept of law? How much transparency does the notion of deliberative democracy itself require?

The conference will consider the topic of private laws in light of the recent controversy over secrecy, surveillance, and national security.  Of particular recent interest are the debates surrounding the conduct of Edward Snowden and the policies of the National Security Agency (NSA).  We will also consider the secret orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as well as the secret memos authored by lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush and Obama Administrations, and will compare different methods of maintaining secrecy and their impact on individual privacy rights and on rule of law values more generally.

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October 4, 2013

Professional Ethics in National Security Law and Policy

Conflicts between the norms by which professionals are governed and more general national security norms are currently widespread in professional life. Journalists may feel obligated to divulge information they regard as vital for a fully informed public, yet the norms of national security bar disclosure. Lawyers, doctors and psychologists have been asked to help implement policies that conflict with standards of conduct in their processions. Medical researchers seeking to publish research findings are often pressured to withhold information that could have a dual military use. This conference will explore conflicts between professional and national security norms as they arise in six different professions: journalism, law, medicine, mental health, sciences, and business.

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May 16, 2013

Drone Wars: The Future of Targeted Killings & Presidential Power

Join Dean Fitts and Claire Finkelstein for “Drone Wars: The Future of Targeted Killings & Presidential Power” as part of Penn Law’s Washington Seminar Series.

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April 19-20, 2013

Conference on Sovereignty and the Rule of Law

The primary question of this conference is how we ought to treat national sovereignty in the face of international terrorism. Typically, we think that the national sovereignty of a country ought to be respected until war is explicitly declared. Yet, some of the most significant threats around the globe are not countries, but groups that reside in countries that they have no formal ties to. If the state that has control of such countries in unable or unwilling to deal with such threats on their own, what options are available to those states that have legitimate grievances against aggressors? Under what conditions (if any) can a state override the national sovereignty of particular countries to pursue those that they have declared war on? Is the use of drones in a territory any less of a violation of sovereignty that if soldiers are sent in? If a particular state gives secret clearance for a foreign power to enter their country, can the foreign power rightfully enter without the popular support or knowledge of that country’s citizens? In this conference we will discuss the requirements of respect for national sovereignty and what limitations ought be put on security forces in their actions against international terrorism.
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November 16-17, 2012

Conference on The Logic of Deterrence and the Changing Face of Warfare

Discussions of the logic of deterrence, both theoretical and practical, dominated the literature on just war theory during the Cold War. Despite diminished attention, the topic remains of vital importance to the current national security concerns, playing a central role in debates over Cyberwarfare and the use of non-conventional weapons or strategies. This Roundtable seeks to revive traditional discussions about the logic of deterrence, but to place this topic in a contemporary setting. Many of the former questions at the intersection of rational choice theory and ethics apply with renewed force in a post-Cold War world: Is it permissible to threaten to do something it would not otherwise be permissible to do? Does precommitment to an otherwise impermissible course of action render it permissible, given that it is accompanied by advance warning? Does deterrence require public notice to constitute a legitimate public policy? These older theoretical questions prove particularly challenging in an age of highly advanced technologies of war. How does deterrence work if the threatened attack cannot be traced back to the state that launched it? How should deterrence theory handle enemies whose actions are highly unpredictable and decentralized, and where the primary actors might not be interested in sparing civilian lives or even avoiding their own death? Is it legitimate to issue threats of kinetic action to deter a Cyber attack? Given the complexities of modern warfare and counter terrorism operations, the challenges of deterrent theory are now ripe for reexamination.
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October 15, 2012

Roundtable on Cyberwar and the Rule of Law

Cyberweapons have become the most dangerous innovation of this century. Cyberwarfare is now considered by the FBI to be the number one threat, ahead of other forms of terrorism. Cyberweapons have the potential to wreak havoc with economic, political, and military systems on the basis of a single electronic act, creating a dreadful new total war potentiality in every dimension. Preventing cyberattacks, however, puts immense pressure on notions of sovereignty and the moral and legal doctrines that were developed to regulate them. As compared with other forms of warfare circumscribed by centuries of just war tradition and the law of armed conflict, cyberwarfare is particularly ambiguous from the standpoint of the rule of law: its prevention may require violating the sovereignty of other nations, violating traditional domestic privacy rights, expanding the concept of combatancy, and lowering the threshold for what counts as an act of war. The legal and moral complexities inherent in this new form of warfare make understanding the demands of the rule of law in national security an essential undertaking.
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September 11, 2012

Inaugural Panel on Foundational Questions in National Security

Since 9/11, increasing pressures on national security, together with global changes in the nature of war, have posed serious threats to the preservation of rule of law values in American society. The U.S. has struggled continuously with the ethical and legal posture of detention and interrogation, the permissibility of kill or capture raids on suspected terrorists, the legitimate scope of secrecy in the exercise of executive privilege, the acceptable extent of state investigation into the lives of private citizens, the authority of international law relative to U.S. sovereign authority, and now the expansion of the tools of war to include novel methods such as Cyber attacks. The Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law is a new institute at Penn Law devoted to the preservation of rule of law values in the face of the foregoing types of challenges.
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This program has been approved for 1 hour of substantive law credit and 1 hour of ethics credit for Pennsylvania lawyers. Credit may be available in other jurisdictions. Attendees seeking credit should bring payment ($40 – cash or check payable to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania). There is no charge for the event itself.

May 18 - 19, 2012

The Ethics of Secrecy and the Rule of Law Conference

Recent events have put governmental secrecy in the news and enhanced the scrutiny of classification practices. During the Bush Administration, for example, a series of secret legal memoranda authorized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques against terror suspects. These formed a key component of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy. With the Obama Administration, clandestine legal memoranda have sought to justify the use of targeted killing, and one particularly controversial memo authorized the killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Alawki. The contents of the latter have not been made public, though pressure is mounting for its release. Even the criteria by which a target is placed on the targeted killing list (the “Joint Prioritized Effects List” (JPEL)) remain confidential.

With the pressures of the ongoing War on Terror, major policies and legal questions of national importance have become less and less open to public view. The increase in secrecy is not without costs, as there appears to be a tradeoff between the need for effective security and the value of transparency. On the one hand, as Immanuel Kant wrote, “every claim to right must have this capacity for publicity.” John Rawls has echoed this same sentiment in requiring publicity as a condition of the social contract. On the other hand, effective national security crucially depends on the State’s ability to control the flow of information. This Roundtable will consider whether the expanding use of secrecy in governmental practices is desirable, and, most crucially, whether it is consistent with rule of law values.
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April 30, 2012

Targeted Killing: Law and Morality in an Asymmetric World Book Celebration

5:30 p.m. | Silverman 245A/Levy Conference Center

“Targeted Killings: Law and Morality in an Asymmetric World” is an interdisciplinary compilation of essays that brings together articles each dealing with the difficult moral and legal issues surrounding the use of targeted killing. The publication, which has been released on the British market, and soon to be released in the United States, has already garnered significant attention and acclaim. With endorsements from Professors Philip Alston and David Luban, and journalist Scott Horton, the volume is the most wide-ranging and thorough treatment of the debate surrounding targeted killing to date. Admiral John Hutson, JAGC, USN (Ret), Dean Emeritus University of New Hampshire School of Law will give a keynote address as part of the celebration event. 


November 30, 2011

Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Targeted Killing


The use of targeted killing has become a favored tool in the War on Terror. The killing of Osama Bin Laden further solidified support for the practice, given its efficiency and swift success. Since Bin Laden, several high profile targeted killings have further increased public attention to such operations. With the increased public scrutiny has come a growing sentiment that the moral and legal justifications for targeted killing have not been sufficiently explored. To what extent, for example, do we have an obligation to attempt to capture before killing terror suspects? Are some individuals on the target list civilians rather than combatants or “unlawful combatants”? Are there special problems associated with targeting American citizens, such as al-Awlaki? If killing al-Awlaki was legitimate, would the same sort of operation be permissible on U.S. soil? This panel will seek to explore the ethical and legal issues surrounding recent uses of targeted killing.

Moderator: Claire Finkelstein Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania School of Law
Jens Ohlin Associate Professor of Law, Cornell University
Kevin Govern Associate Professor of Law, Ave Maria School of Law
Daphne Eviatar Senior Associate, Law and Security Program, Human Rights First
Ambassador Thomas Graham Special Representative of the President for Arms Control, Non-Proliferation, and Disarmament, 1994-1997

Listen to the panel:

(Moderated by Claire Finkelstein)

Read more about the panel

April 15 - 16, 2011

Co-sponsored by: Jean beer Blumenfeld Center for Ethics of Georgia State

Using Targeted Killing to Fight the War on Terror: Philosophical, Moral and Legal Challenges

The Obama administration has authorized the CIA to target and kill Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical Muslim cleric believed to have ties to al-Qaeda, on the ground that he helped to orchestrate attacks against the United States. The authorization raises the interesting question of who is a legitimate target of such military actions. In particular, it is arguably difficult to think of al-Aulaqi as a belligerent against the U.S., as he is himself an American citizen. Al-Aulaqi, however, is not the only person whose identification as a legitimate target raises moral and legal complications. The U.S. and other governments have been targeting and killing many others as part of both the fight against Islamic terrorists and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the widespread use of this technique raises important questions in just war theory. Notable as well is the fact that the U.S. has been targeting suspected militants with unmanned aerial drones, sophisticated military planes controlled remotely from distant lands.

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